Scrap indoor pollutants

Like the Roach Motel of commercial fame, synthetic scents have crept into our homes and lives and are not going away anytime soon. They are found in perfumes, laundry detergents, air fresheners, fabric softeners, soaps, and magazines to name a few. We are being deodorized from our clothes, to garbage bags to paper towels — where will it end?

According to the dictionary the definition of synthetic is: noting or pertaining to compounds formed through a chemical process by human agency, as opposed to those of natural origin: synthetic vitamins; synthetic fiber.

“Fragrance products often contain alcohols, aldehydes (like formaldehyde, a common indoor air pollutant and probable carcinogen) and aromatic hydrocarbons, which can be irritating to the eyes and respiratory system says Joseph Ponessa, Ph.D., an indoor air specialist at Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

These synthetic scents are intense and long lasting. They bind to your skin tissue or enter through your blood stream causing allergic reactions. For years now synthetic scents have been proven to be pernicious to human health. Think about infants who wear clothes and lie on linens which give off these toxic odors continuously. Our indoor environment is being vaporized continuously and it’s not fresh and it’s not clean.

A few chemicals known to be neurotoxic which are found in synthetic fragrances are: hexachlorophene; acetyl-ethyl-tetramethyl-tetralin; zinc-pyridinethione; 2,4,dinitro-3-methyl-6-tert-butylanisole; 1-Butanol; 2-butanol; tert-Butanol; t-Butyl Toluene. They cause cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, allergic reactions, and neurological disorders.

Certain diseases which have symptoms often identical to chemical hypersensitivity are Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Lupus, and Alzheimer’s, are all neurological disorders. Dyslexia is a neurological dysfunction. Could any of these neurological dysfunctions be caused by our increasing exposure to neurotoxic chemicals? Is it possible that fabric softeners or detergents which emit neurotoxic chemicals could cause the neurological breakdown found in SIDS?

Skin, lungs and brain are the organs primarily affected by fragrance chemicals. According to an article entitled “Affect of Odors in Asthma,” by Chang Shim, MD and M. Henry Williams, MD, American Journal of Medicine, January 1986, Vol. 80, 72 percent of asthma patients in a study had adverse reactions to perfume, i.e., pulmonary function tests dropping anywhere between 18 percent and 58 percent below baseline. A 1991 report produced by the EPA states that in every fragrance sample collected, toluene was detected. “Toluene was most abundant in the auto parts store, as well as the fragrance sections of the department store.” The occurrence of asthma in the population over the past decade is on the rise thought to be due to the increased use of toluene which has been determined to trigger asthma attacks in previously healthy people.

There are of hundreds of “flavor and fragrance” labs world wide which produce these unsafe chemicals for Proctor & Gamble, Archer Daniels Midland, et al. One of them is Indofine Chemical Company and according to their Web site, “FLAVORSANDFRAGRANCES.COM, a division of INDOFINE Chemical Company, Inc., has over 1000 flavor and fragrance compounds available. We specialize in custom synthesis and toll manufacturing to make commercial quantities of flavors and fragrances. With nearly 10,000 chemicals in our database, we can help you streamline purchasing and contain costs by sourcing all of your chemical needs. Customer satisfaction is guaranteed.” In case you were wondering about the flavor part, when trans-fats were ousted from the McDonald’s deep fryers, the company turned to one of these flavor labs for that lardy, smoky French fry taste everyone’s so addicted to.

If you want natural scents wafting throughout your home you must once again do your homework and check the labels for those synthetics listed under the catchall word: “fragrance.” For a healthier approach try using aromatherapy-type sprays from your local health food store. They come in many forms such as pure essential oils, which are distilled from flowers (lavender, jasmine), woods (sandalwood, cedar), leaves (basil, eucalyptus) and resins (frankincense, myrrh). There’s also available aromatherapy soy candles which contain no synthetic fragrances or colors, and feature lead-free cotton wicks. For naturally scented soaps and skin care products try some of our local stores where the products are made on the premises.

There are so many environmental toxins in our environment today that we cannot directly control, so why add to the mix. Toss out the dryer sheets and pull the plug in scent emitters and perfumed detergents — your immune system will breathe a sigh of relief.

(Kathleen Lamont is the owner of Back to Basics. Her Web site is and her email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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